Keeping alive the magic of Kathak

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  • Published 7.07.10
Kathak guru Rani Karnaa (second from left) guides students at a workshop
Dance students practise Kathak at the workshop in Bhubaneswar. Pictures by Ashwinee Pati

Bhubaneswar, July 6: The rhythmic sound of the ghungroo and poetic verses of Surdas bhajans leave you enchanted, as you enter a workshop on Kathak, conducted by veteran dancer Rani Karnaa Nayak, at her residence in the city.

Dance enthusiasts of various age groups were being trained in the nuances Kathak during a six-day workshop, which ended today.

Dancing to the beats of the tabla, the young students struck articulate poses accompanied by graceful movements of hands and feet. While most of the students were teenaged girls, there were also many children in the age group of five to 10, including boys.

“Organising workshops is a regular activity of my academy Samskritiki Shreyaskar. Although we have more activities in Calcutta, I have made the workshops a regular feature in Bhubaneswar over the past five years,” said Rani Karnaa .

The pupils recite the songs taught by their guru and then learn the movements. “Kathak has a cyclic taal and its syllables are very important for performance. It’s all about timing and expressions,” Rani Karnaa said.

“Learning any dance form is an intensive process. The same applies to Kathak. The chhanda (combination of movements) comes easily only after thorough practice,” she added.

The dance form is practised on bhakti taal, the beautiful literature by poets like Haridas, Surdas, Tulsidas and Mirabai.

Some students at the workshop have also been learning Odissi, the prominent dance form of the state.

“When it comes to techniques, postures and gestures with one’s hands and feet, there is a huge difference between Odissi and Kathak. Students, who have been acquainted with Odissi, take time to adjust to Kathak’s nuances. On the other hand, newcomers, especially those under the age of 10, pick up the movements swiftly,” said Karnaa Nayak, who has trained in Odissi for 18 years under the guidance of guru Kelucharan Mohapatra.

“This is the second workshop I’ve attended here. Having been trained in Odissi since childhood I took time to adapt to Kathak. My guru told me that Kathak is about the emphatic movement of the entire body. Now, I can differentiate between the two dance forms easily and am very comfortable with the movem ents,” said Manisha, a Class XII student.

“I love the spinning that we do in Kathak and enjoy dancing to the tabla beats,” said Bidhisuta Nayak, a Class V student, who was practising at the workshop.

Rani Karnaa, who was born in Sind in Pakistan, started learning dance from as far back as 1944.

When she grew up, she trained under legendary dance gurus like Nritya Charan Narayan Prasad, pandit Sunder Prasad and pandit Birju Maharaj.

She started off with the Jaipur gharana but soon also learnt the style of the Lucknow gharana. Married to an Oriya, she settled down in Bhubaneswar in 2002 but kept performing throughout India and abroad.

She established Samskritiki Shreyaskar in 1995.

“I believe in passing the legacy of my dance to the new generation. Despite the prominence of Odissi, Kathak has received a great response here but it still needs to be popularised,” said Rani Karnaa.


Rani Karnaa was born in Pakistan

She married an Oriya in 1963

The dancer settled down in Orissa in 2002

Her compositions, such as Surya, Navrang, Shiva Shakti, Navarasamalika, Indradhanush, merge contemporary styles with Kathak

She has received accolades for her compositions

She started Samskritiki Shreyaskar, a dance academy in 1995

Samskritiki Shreyaskar centres are there in Calcutta and Bhubaneswar

She excels in Jaipur and Lucknow gharana of Kathak

Learnt Odissi from Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra for 18 years